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Château de Beauregard Saumur Moelleux 1996

Château de Beauregard Saumur Moelleux 1996

Something a little out of the ordinary this weekend. First, this is one of the more mature wines from my cellar; nothing unusual in that I guess, following last week’s “resolution” to pull and drink some older wines. Secondly, it is a moelleux cuvée; nothing unusual in that either of course, after all I drink a lot of sweet wines. In fact, having just checked my cellar inventory, I see about one-quarter are sweet wines (if that shocks you, I have to confess I was more than a little surprised myself). Thirdly, this is a wine from Saumur, although there is certainly nothing unusual in that either. Put all three features together though – old sweet Saumur – and this is at least a little unusual. Those sweet wines in my cellar are Vouvray, Quarts de Chaume, Montlouis, Bonnezeaux and Coteaux du Layon. Oh, and Sauternes and Barsac too. The bottles of Saumur Moelleux, however, don’t number more than half a dozen.

This isn’t one of those rarely sighted or near-extinct appellations like Coteau de Saumur (which I would count among the former) or Cérons (which is certainly among the latter). The Saumur appellation allows for wines richer in residual sugar just as it allows for wines of different colours, and sparkling wines too of course. There might be all sorts of reasons a vigneron might have chosen the Saumur appellation over Coteaux de Saumur, although I imagine in many cases it is a reflection of the slightly more stringent regulations for the latter. Many of the sweeter wines of Saumur tend towards a more nervous, tender style than the richer moelleux cuvées of Anjou, Montlouis or Vouvray, so they might fail to hit the concentration of sugar in the must required by the Coteaux de Saumur regulations (this is a bit of supposition on my part, so I would be delighted to hear from anyone who knows of some other reasoning).

Château de Beauregard Saumur Moelleux 1996

A mention of Château de Beauregard is more likely to conjure up thoughts of Pomerol than Saumur, but this particular Beauregard is found on the southern outskirts of Le Puy-Notre-Dame. As regular readers probably already know, this town sits on an impressive tor of Turonian limestone, the soils on its slopes scattered with degraded limestone and flint. For many years (for four generations in truth) Château de Beauregard was in the hands of the Gourdon family, and up until in the early 1990s it was Philippe Gourdon who was making the wines. Around this time, however, convinced that he needed to go in a different direction, he split from the rest of his family to establish Château Tour Grise, where today he continues to fashion ‘natural’ wines that are, at the very least, individual (although he also increasingly rents his land out, such as a deal struck last year with the talented Aymeric Hillaire of Domaine Mélaric). This left his brother Alain Gourdon running the show at Château de Beauregard and this remained the case until he sold up, in 2013, to Bernard Cambier.

The domaine’s focus has always been red wines, with close to three-quarters planted to Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The rest was mostly Chenin Blanc, with a couple of hectares of Chardonnay on the side. The 1996 vintage was a good one for the region, as it was in other regions of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. Today, the 1996 Saumur Moelleux from Château de Beauregard shows a soft golden hue and it has an intriguing nose, the minerally Chenin Blanc sweetness showing as notes of poached pear, intertwined with scented honey, freshly infused with the aromas of thyme flowers, rosemary and even a hint of lavender. There are also some very appealing scents of truffle signalling the evolution here which I particularly like. A beautifully sweet and gentle character on palate, mirroring the nose, all laid on a rich base of honey, biscuit and oatmeal. Lovely acidity too, the wine showing balance and a little substance. A very pretty wine, fresh, with a long biting finish. Far from profound, admittedly, but this has held up well, evolved nicely, and seems very typical of the region. 16/20 (11/1/16)

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